Peter Gowers, chief executive of Travelodge, said about a third of his 12,000 workers are from EU countries and there had been a noticeable fall in applications from those countries since the Brexit vote.
Gowers told the BBC that the government would have look at some kind of guest worker programme if it wanted to “stabilise” the economy after Brexit.
Between now and 2029 the hospitality industry will have a shortfall of one million workers, he said.
He said: “The government is in danger of letting events overtake them – hotels, schools, care homes, restaurants all rely on EU workers.
“We’d like a guest worker programme eventually, but we can’t wait, so we’re helping those employees that are eligible with the cost and process of applying for permanent residency in the UK.”
According to figures from recruiter Manpower, 24% of all staff in the hospitality sector come from the EU and Travelodge is working hard to retain them in anticipation of a shrinking labour market.
Gowers was speaking as the budget chain reported that rising demand from business travellers helped revenues grow by 6.6% to £637.1 million last year, with underlying earnings up 2.1% to £112.4 million.
However, he also warned that measures introduced by the government such as a higher living wage, increased business rates and higher taxes were putting job creation in the sector at risk.
He said ministers were “putting rocks in our rucksack”, adding: “It’s loading costs on to businesses and they need to be careful of unintended consequences.
“The hospitality sector has created thousands of jobs over the past few years, don’t choke it off.”